Cape Cod peninsula, which extends into Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern Massachusetts, offers some 600 miles of coastline. There are over a hundred beaches – with dramatically diverse scenery, water and sand features. We are lucky to live less than 90-minute drive away from Cape Cod and are visiting often this summer. It is about time I share my favorite Cape Cod beaches with my readers.
Cape Cod’s ocean beaches are often grouped into the 3 categories. I will tell you about my favorite public beaches in each category!
- Nantucket Sound Beaches (Western/Southern shoreline in the towns of Falmouth, Hyannis, Dennis Port, Yarmouth and Harwich)
- Bay Beaches (Northern shoreline in the towns of Sandwich, Dennis, and Brewster and all the way to Provincetown along the the “inside” of the “arm”- see map below)
- Outer Cape/Ocean Beaches (Eastern shoreline, in the towns of Truro, Wellfleet and Provincetown).
You could also follow our roadtrip through the best beaches of Cape Cod on my youtube channel.
Best Cape Cod’s Nantucket Sound Beaches
What we love the most about them: warm ocean water, beach walks; they also remind us of Black Sea beaches of our childhood.
Cape Cod’s Nantucket Sound have the warmest (if not of the most beautiful color) ocean water that reaches into lower and sometimes mid 70s degrees in the heat of the summer. Some of the best public beaches in this category are Craigville Beach in Barnstable, Old Silver Beach in Falmouth and Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth.
These beaches look very much like the Black Sea beaches we used to vacation on as kids in the former Soviet Union. So these have been our “go to” beaches during our weekends on Cape Cod to enjoy our long swims.
My favorite Nantucket Sound beach is Kalmus Beach in Hyannis. It is the least crowded so even on a summer weekend you can usually find a parking spot. It is connected to a harbor-side shallow Memorial Beach that is popular with families. Parking lot at Kalmus is behind the grassy area so it is not immediately visible- an important factor for my beach relaxation. I should also mention a designated wind surfing area which adds to my beach entertainment, but also means that the wind here is quite strong at times.
There is nice food shack offering chicken nuggets and lobster rolls, there are also well kept restroom/shower facilities. As often is the case with Cape Cod beaches, all facilities are closed at 4 pm (on a plus side, they stop collecting parking fees at that time).
Best Cape Cod’s Bay Beaches
What we love the most about them: sandflat walks at low tides, ocean color
These are the beaches along the Northern shoreline (Sandy Neck Beach Park in Sandwich, Mayflower and Chapin Beach in Dennis) and to tell you the truth I only really discovered them in the staycation summer of 2020.
My favorite Bay beach is Corporation Beach in Dennis. Judging by the amount of screen time I give this beach in my video, it is my overall favorite beach this summer! I even have my favorite parking lot on this beach (overflow Howes street entrance). Although you have to brave the pile of loose sand, it makes for dramatic and rewarding beach entrance.
Tides are important on Cape Cod Bay beaches: to make the best of your experience, enter within an hour of low tide. This is the time to walk on sandflats, play in the tidal pools and simply enjoy the scenery and remarkable ocean colors. The color of the water is what is drawing us back to Corporation Beach this summer, although the ocean water is not as warm as on Nantucket Sound Beaches.
I also think that the food shack at Corporation Beach is the best beach food shack on all of Cape Cod (I know some Wellfleet devotees will argue that the title belongs to Mac’s on the Pier. But Mac is overpriced and the beach next to it is smallish, so Corporation Beach all the way!)
Best Cape Cod Outer Ocean Beaches
What we love the most about them: dramatic ocean/dunes vistas
As you are exploring Cape Cod’s Outer coastline, be sure to check out the National Seashore federally protected land comprising of 6 beaches (5 of them are Outer ocean beaches- Coast Guard, Head of the Meadow, Marconi, Nauset Light, and Race Point; the sixth- Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown – is actually a Bay side beach). These beaches have lifeguards and basic restroom facilities but typically no food shacks (Race Point Beach and Head of the Meadow Beach do not have life guards in the summer of 2020; also note that daily fees will not collected this summer at the Head of the Meadow Beach.) You may want to look into purchasing an annual pass if you plan to visit the Seashore beaches several times this summer.
I have to note that Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is often included in the top 10 U.S. beaches – for the crystal like quality of its white sand among other things. It houses historic Coast Guard House and offers expansive views over Nauset Spit barrier system and bay.
My favorite Outer Ocean Beach is Marconi Beach in Wellfleet. I just love its “uninterrupted” flow and the dramatic dunes. You are almost sure to spot a seal while on this beach but I never want to spot a shark! (there are however warning signs). That and the cold water are the reasons that you will not see me swimming on this beach.
While there is no food facility on the beach, a French bakery at the beginning of Cape Cod Rail Trail bike path (both the bakery and the path are my other Cape Cod favorites) will be sure to help you fill your beach picnic basket to your liking. The Bike Path starts in Wellfleet and Marconi Beach exit is about 2.5 miles south.
Accessing the beach from the parking lot requires descending via a steep staircase, so travelers with mobility issues may want to choose a different Ocean beach. Check this National Park’s website for detailed access information.
During our Cape Cod beach explores this summer, we have discovered another magnificent Outer Ocean beach- Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. It is not part of the National Seashore park, but it is a public beach, although parking here is limited (famous Beachcomber restaurant is on this beach; they offer food vouchers in exchange for parking fees). We visited right before sunset (parking is not collected after 6pm) and were treated to these views while we waited for our (outside terrace) table.
Planning Labor Day weekend on the Cape? Waterfront hotels on Cape Cod are not cheap, but waking up with the waves might be worth it! ((when you book via my booking.com link, I might earn a small commission to help maintain this site -at no cost to you!)
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